SC directive to Kerala panel on MBBS fees

Apex court, in its judgment, clears the air by confirming the wisdom of a Feb. 28, 2019 HC order

The Supreme Court on Thursday spelt relief for students and private self-financing medical colleges alike in Kerala by directing the State’s Admission and Fee Regulatory Committee to consult with college managements and fix a “non-exploitative and reasonable” fee from 2017-18 onwards for MBBS studies.

A Bench led by Justice L. Nageswara Rao asked the committee to complete the exercise in three months.

“The committee shall re-examine the proposals of the managements of medical volleges for the fixation of fee 2017-18 onwards,” the court ordered.

3 rounds of litigation

The judgment is based on appeals stemming from over three rounds of litigation involving the State, the managements of private colleges and students in the High Court.

The apex court, in its judgment, cleared the air by confirming the wisdom of a February 28, 2019 judgment of the High Court.

In 2019, the High Court asked the committee to “closely scrutinise the fee suggested by the managements to examine if the fee proposed was not excessive and to eliminate any element of profiteering or collection of capitation fee”. The managements were directed to cooperate with the committee in the matter of fixation of fee.

Justice Rao took a leaf from the 2019 decision by choosing to not delve into the merits of the fee structure of any individual college, but simply conforming to the principles of fee fixation laid down in the 2017 Act.

“Unaided professional institutions have the autonomy to decide on the fee to be charged, subject to the fee not resulting in profiteering or collection of capitation fee. Regulation of fee is within the domain of the committee which shall ensure that the fee is non-exploitative and reasonable,” he explained.

Lack of clarity

The apex court agreed with the High Court that lack of clarity over the fee structure for MBBS in private aided and unaided colleges was beneficial neither for the institutions nor the students.

“Therefore, we direct the committee to expeditiously reconsider the proposals of the private self-financing colleges for fee fixation from 2017-18 onwards. Needless to mention that fee for earlier years also needs to be finalised in case it has not been done in respect of any college,” the judgment said.

The top court stated that the committee could direct the college managements for information necessary to arrive at a decision that the fee proposed by the managements was “either excessive nor exploitative in nature”.

Justice Rao said, “A reasonable opportunity should be given to the managements of private self-financing colleges in respect of their proposals for fee fixation. The entire exercise shall be completed within a period of three months from today.”

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